I was out there today, doing just that. I was cleaning up whatever leaves were left over from autumn, under shrubs, etc. I was picking up branches, scooping out dandelions (seriously I have a hundred: Anyone want dandelion tea?) and literally saying "hello" and "welcome back" to all of the blooming trees. Pagans, especially urban Pagans, barely have a relationship with their land. I'm trying to cultivate mine.
In working with my family and my ancestors I learned that the actual soil and rocks and trees are important. Talk about earth energy! Where do you think you're calling it up from? Are "earth" "air" "fire" and "water" just abstract concepts to you, or are they a part of your reality? Don't be sarcastic, I know you breathe air. But do you recognize your breath? Do you stop to appreciate it? Does the wind answer your call? Have you connected with the spirits and creatures of this element?
Today I was connecting with earth. Literal and metaphysical earth. I felt the hum of the trees. I knew which ones needed help and where. I felt them shake off the past seasons as I cleaned around them. I communed with nature. As the keeper of this land it's my responsibility and my pleasure to do it.
Stuck in an apartment? I bet there's land somewhere near you: community gardens, public gardens, public parks, nature preserves... You can volunteer to help maintain it. You can help work the land and make more of a connection with the earth. It's one thing to learn about or meditate on the concept of an element, it's another to hold it in your hands, to feel the energy, to exchange energy and become a part of it, and it become a part of you.
No, having a little potted thing in your house doesn't count for this. Sure, it counts in some respects, but dirt in a pot isn't really part of the web of earth in the same way as a tree in the ground. It doesn't renew itself in the same way. Go ahead and keep plants inside, plant familiars are awesome. But go and find land you can connect with.
A valued friend of mine asked if I've read The Earth Path by Starhawk. My response: I can either spend 2 hours reading it, or two hours actually doing it :-)
Reading it, thinking about it, meditating about it, isn't the same thing as going out there and getting your hands dirty. Both literally and metaphysically.
I'm done preaching now lol